Blue Origin's 23rd Space Mission Went Bust, In-Flight "Anomally" Triggered Booster Failure

The Blue Origin space company's uncrewed flight reported an error, and the capsule detached from its booster and parachuted into the Texas desert. The booster crashed, but the emergency systems deployed correctly, and the capsule performed well during this real-life unplanned mission abort.
Blue Origin New Shepard 23 aborted mission 25 photos
NS-23 Blast offNS-23 Blast offNS-23 Blast offNS-23 TakeoffNS-23 AscendingNS-23 AcceleratingNS-23 Reaching Max QNS-23 Booster burstNS-23 Booster burstNS-23 Booster burstNS-23 Booster and capsule separateNS-23 Booster and capsule separateNS-23 Booster falls to the ground, capsule ignites emergency motorNS-23 Capsule climbs using emergency motorNS-23 Capsule hits peak altitudeNS-23 Capsule in freefallNS-23 terminal VelocityNS-23 Main parachutes deployedNS-23 LandingNS-23 LandingBlue Origin mottoBlue Origin mottoBlue Origin mottoBlue Origin motto
The New Shepard, Blue Origins' reusable rocket, should have carried its 36 additional payloads beyond the 62-mile altitude mark (100 km) above sea level. All flight preparations went well, as did the takeoff, with no issues reported. At T-0 (Takeoff time), the New Shepard blasted its engine and, eight seconds later, detached from the pad.

There wasn't any apparent malfunction until sixty-four seconds after T-0 when the booster and capsule separated in one big blaze. While the capsule emergency thruster blasted on, the rocket collapsed from an altitude of 27,328 feet (8,329 meters) above mean sea level.

At that moment, the rocket was ascending vertically at a speed of 632 mph (1,017 kph). For a flash moment after separation, the vehicle reached a top speed of 704 mph (1,132 kph). The capsule continued to climb for 24 more seconds. At T+88, one minute and 28 seconds into the flight, the errant top module hit a peak altitude of 37,345 feet (11,382 meters) above sea level. You can watch the entire mission in the video below at the 1h20m30sec mark.

NS\-23 Booster burst
The ground telemetry indicated Zero Gravity inside the capsule, even though the spacecraft was still in the Earth's atmosphere. The measurement is not an instrument error; however, the acceleration of the capsule hurdling back toward Texas matched the gravitational pull. It is an effect (called microgravity) often used to train astronauts without flying into space.

The New Shepard liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen propelled Tail-3 rocket successfully ascended past the maximum dynamic pressure point (Max Q) at T+60 seconds. The entire flight should have lasted around ten minutes, with the capsule detaching three minutes after takeoff and then using its thruster to reach outer space.

Instead, the module – Reusable Space Ship H.G. Wells – dived into a freefall, sped up to the terminal velocity of 280 mph (450 kph), and, precisely sixty seconds after detaching – at T+124 - deployed the three main parachute drogues. (The drogues are nothing more than tiny parachutes used to pull out the primary ones). The mission ended in a big cloud of Texan desert dust when the H.G. Wells touched down.

NS\-23 Landing
The module used in the NS-23 flight can carry six crew into space – and it did in the past – but no people were onboard during this mission. The target of the New Shepard Flight 23 (the fourth Of Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin mission in 2022) was to launch 36 different test and experimental equipment (18 of those funded by NASA).

The flight lasted five minutes and fifty-six seconds, and ironically, it constituted both a failure and a success for Blue Origin. The mission did not go (into space) as planned, and the space capsule had to abort; the emergency landing procedures worked flawlessly and ensured a safe – although somewhat rough – landing for the (still) reusable, fully autonomous craft. The company's "Launch. Land. Repeat." motto is more suitable than ever in this situation.

Video thumbnail


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories